Earlier this year there was consternation when a draft of NMBS's transport plan was leaked. The existing transport plan dates from 1998 and is urgently in need of revision, not least because the number of passengers has greatly increased in recent years.
A number of facets of the new transport plan have met with opposition from local authorities and passenger groups. Ghent City Council objected to proposals to scrap direct rail services between Ghent-Dampoort and Brussels.
Concert halls and theatres were displeased about proposals to scrap a number of late night trains services that would have made it all but impossible for those wishing to attend a concert to get home by train.
"A fundamental re-drafting of the transport plan was not possible"
The complaints and comments made about the transport plan have not fallen on deaf ears. Over the past few months the rail company has made a number of modifications to the plan. From today the modifications will be made public province by province.
NMBS's Michaël Vanloubbeeck told the daily 'De Standaard that "A fundamental re-drafting of the transport plan was not possible".
"What we have tried to do is find solutions to issues raised in the critical comments and questions sent to us."
For example, a number of late train services that were due to be scrapped will continue to operate. The rush hour service between Ghent-Dampoort and Brussels will also continue.
The total number of kilometres covered on weekdays will rise by 2% once the new transport plan takes effect in December. In the future there will be 4 intercity trains per hour between the big cities. They will be evenly spaced, providing a quarter-hourly service between cities such as Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels.
The longer journey times described in the plan will remain. NMBS says that this is necessary to bring the theoretic journey time more into line with reality.
"We are not Father Christmas"
Speaking in the daily 'De Morgen' Mr Vanloubbeeck said "In the past we have never taken passenger grievances into account in the way. However, we haven't been able to give everyone everything they have asked for. We are not Father Christmas."
"If we lay on an extra train to address the wishes or complaints of passengers, this automatically means that one is withdrawn elsewhere. Something that has positive consequence for 100 passengers can have negative consequences for 500 others. We have to help as many people as possible with limited means. This means that it isn’t logical to operate a train that costs 10,000 euro per person, per annum to run."
The new transport plan will be available online from 1 July.